Whether you are an avid golfer out on the course or an office worker sitting at your desk, chances are you have experienced stiff hips at some point in your life. Your hips play a vital role in your lower body’s range of motion, and good hip mobility is essential to a wider and more comfortable range. Poor hip mobility can cause injury and pain – not just for your hips but for other areas of your body, including your back and knees.
“Your hips are ball-in-socket joints, similar to your shoulders but larger, stronger, and more stable,” explains Florent Thézard, wellness program leader at Manitoba Blue Cross and certified athletic therapist. “As with most joints, movement is beneficial: joints absorb nutrients through a viscous liquid, similar in consistency to raw egg whites. When we move around, so does that fluid, which can then reach all areas of the joint to keep it healthy.”
Movements like walking, kicking, or even rotating to swing at a golf ball require strong, flexible hips. The less we move, the less effective our hips are at making those kinds of movements. “Physical inactivity, such as sitting down too often and for too long, is the primary culprit of poor hip mobility. Some muscles become long and weak, while others get shorter and more tense. This is referred to as ‘lower crossed syndrome’,” says Thézard.
So how can you improve your hip mobility? Try the simple exercises below that are suitable for all fitness levels.
Before you get started, it’s important to remember that you should move in a controlled manner until you feel a gentle stretch, avoiding any feelings of pain or pinching. If you feel pain, stop to reset your body and slowly try the exercise again. If the pain persists, consider visiting an athletic therapist for help.
Start by sitting on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Keep your back nice and straight and bring your feet in towards your inner thighs. Press the soles of your feet together. Hold your feet with your hands and let your knees fall to each side. Begin to lower your knees slowly until you start to feel gentle pulling and tension in your inner thighs. Gently pulse your legs up and down to deepen the stretch before holding this position for 30 seconds. Release and repeat two more times.
Exercise two: Clamshell stretch
Lay on your side with your hips and knees bent, so that your heels are in line with your head, torso and hips. Keep your heels together and rotate your top knee up toward the sky. Hold for 10 seconds and then lower your leg back down to the starting position. Complete a full set of three repetitions of 10 seconds. Repeat on the opposite side.
Exercise three: 90/90 hip switch stretch
This last exercise is more advanced. Seniors and those with known hip or knee issues should proceed with caution or even check with a medical professional before attempting.
Sit on the ground with a tall back. Place one leg in front of you and bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. Place your other leg behind you, and again bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. Both legs should rest on or slightly above the ground, whatever feels right for you. Hold this position for 10 seconds and then lean back, resting on your hands. Hold for 10 more seconds and then return to the starting position. Keep your torso tall and drive your back leg up first and begin to rotate to your other side. Once the rotation is complete, both knees should remain at a 90-degree angle and your legs should again rest on or near the ground. Repeat three times for each side.